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Brief Introduction to Investing in Gold

Ah gold, the metal we humans have been fascinated with since the 5th millennium BC, when the metallurgy era had begun. From a scientific standpoint, this precious metal is an element just like hundreds of other naturally occurring substances. However, from the lens of history, gold has been a symbol of prosperity and wealth and it is still considered a valuable asset today, which is traded daily on the gold market. As of the writing of this article, the price of one ounce of gold is $1,317.00 and there is no doubt that this alloy will remain a precious one for centuries to come.

A Bit of Gold History

One historic example of the interest in gold unfolded was with the Thracians, an Indo-European tribe that inhabited a large part of Europe and began preserving this metal as a commodity.   

Egyptians were the first ones who started refining gold ores and used its bars in trade exchanges. In 600 BC, the Lydia Kingdom introduced gold mints as a currency. From then on, gold became a leading option to store value, worth and to make investments.

And to this day, gold is still considered a viable investment option. In this article, we will discuss the reasons why the value of gold as an investment and money has transcended many eras and civilizations.

The Status of Gold as the Oldest Currency

As mentioned earlier, no currency from modern times can predate the status of gold as money. It has been used for over 2,500 years. The second oldest currency in the world is Pound Sterling that was introduced 1,300 years after gold had established its place as a currency.

Gold is not just the oldest currency. It is also a commodity that preserves its value. From the beginning of the 20th century, all major currencies of the world depreciate in comparison to the value of precious metals.

Yes, the price of gold fluctuates like any other commodity. However, its value remains constant over a long period of time.  Waves of inflation affect the purchasing power of traditional currencies, but gold remains unaffected to such economic woes.

The Tangible Nature of Gold

Investments can either be tangible or intangible, and gold belongs to the former group. In today’s world, most of our investments are intangible. Whether it’s stocks or cryptocurrency, everything exists in an intangible form or in a cloud and thus has a volatile nature. As soon as a company declares bankruptcy, its stocks vanish into thin air.  On the other hand, the majority of tangible assets are subjected to physical depreciation. A stash of corn won’t be same after, say, six months. Similarly, conserved oil depletes when it is not properly covered.

In comparison, gold is a tangible asset that can withstand all natural wear and tear. Whether its heat or water, nothing can physically wear out a gold specimen.  Moreover, it can’t be hacked or tempered like digital assets. This is the reason why even after all technological progressions, many people still opt for gold bars and bullions as the viable choice of investment.

No High Financial Risks are Attached with Gold

Gold price graph in USD

Any investment comes with a long list of terms and conditions that also entail different risks and liabilities associated with the given plan. Then, there are intermediaries like brokers and liaisons who are also involved throughout the process and also share the profit.

By investing in gold, one can leave out all these obstacles. It is an investment in itself and requires no terms and conditions. Its value is real and hence never falls to naught. If you have gold assets, you can use it to balance the fluctuations of stocks when the market gets volatile. Rest assured as they will hold their value and can increase in value, depending on market conditions.

There is Always a Gold Rush

The quality and viability of any investment can be gauged through its liquidation value. Every tangible or intangible commodity has a liquidity value, and gold is no different. However, there is no comparison to the liquidity power of gold. If you want to liquidate gold in any part of the world, you can find many keen buyers at any given time. Such a quick transaction is not possible with any other investment plan, no matter how lucrative and sought-after it is.

Easy Storage and Upkeep

The question of storage and upkeep arises naturally with the majority of tangible investments.  For example, crop investments will need a warehouse and active surveillance. Similarly, investing in a real estate property also entail large recurrent maintenance expenses.

Gold is also a tangible asset and a precious one. So, you will have to take care of its safe storage, which can be easily arranged through safe deposit boxes or other secure facility or through the use of precious metals companies that will hold your gold for you in certificate form. Regarding the maintenance of gold, you don’t have to do a thing since it can self-preserve its shape and quality for thousands of years.

No Specialized Knowledge is Required for Gold Investing  

Every investment, no matter how simple and uncomplicated it is, requires some prior knowledge of how it works. Investing in stock options, for instance, entail some good knowledge of how stock markets operate and how one can forecast bullish and bearish trends. Likewise, real estate investments require a hectic comparative analysis of different zones and sectors.

Although it is recommended to research the history and performance of this commodity, you don’t need to be an expert in precious metals to understand its market trends. All it takes is a little homework and money (of course)  to buy gold bullion. Once you have a good understanding of this metal’s value, you can speak to an expert who will guide you from there, and there are thousands to choose form. Just Google ‘Buy Gold’ or an equivalent search term for purchasing this commodity and scores of reputable precious metals websites will show up. With the availability of so many universally certified and accredited gold dealers, you don’t have to worry about the authenticity of any given specimen.

Gold is an Active Investment

Many people think of gold investing as a defensive strategy to protect their fortune. There is no doubt that it is one of the safest forms to preserve your assets. Gold appreciates like other viable investment options. At any given point in history, gold prices were higher than the preceding time. Gold experienced an incredible 721% rise in its price in between 1976 and 1980. Yes, gold is not just a defensive financial measure. It can also turn into a lucrative investment in the long run.

Apart from enthralling with its aesthetics in ornamental items, this yellowish metallic mineral has always provided us with an assurance on the monetary front too. And it will continue to maintain its status as an everlasting investment for a long time to come.

Earth’s Oldest Rock Found on the Moon

The Moon RockA rock from Earth on the moon! How can this be? Aliens? Well, not so fast, as there is a logical explanation as to how this happened.

Let’s start with a little history of the Apollo space program. The objective of the program was to facilitate human landings on the Moon as well as the astronaut’s safe return. The program consisted of six missions, namely Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15 16 and 17 (the ascending numbering is in the chronological order).   

The Apollo 14 Mission went to the moon in 1971 and explored its Cone Crater. The astronauts on the excruciation also brought some rocks, which were arbitrarily picked from the crater.  All the lunar specimens brought back to the Earth have been inspected and studied to not only understand planet Earth’s lone natural satellite but also the planet itself. Scientists have also been studying them in connection with the evolution of our own planet.

In one such study, astronauts have put forward some amazing inference regarding one of the lunar relics collected by the Apollo 14 team. According to the team of geologists and astronauts analyzing the specimens brought by the Apollo 14 mission, one of the rock specimens was actually a four-billion-year-old chunk from planet Earth!

If this deduction is further established in the future, then this specimen will easily become Earth’s oldest rock.  You may be wondering how on earth (pun intentional) a rock from this planet ended up on the moon. Before your mind starts weaving conspiracy theories regarding extraterrestrial phenomena, we are going to burst the bubble of how this terrestrial rock ended up on the moon, leading us to an astonishing tale of this stone ’s journey from the Earth to the moon and back.

An Asteroid or Comet Impact: The Initial Point of This Journey

Billions of years ago, when life hadn’t materialized on Earth, the collision of large asteroids and comets with our planet was pretty common. Scientists believe that this terrestrial rock ended up on the moon, due to such impact.

According to their hypothesis, a large comet or asteroid collided with Earth that resulted in the splatter of rocks from the Earth’s crust into the outer space, similar to splashes from a water-filled glass when an ice cube hits its surface.

These rocky splashes scattered into outer space and some of them landed on the Moon. It is important to mention that the moon was three times closer to the Earth then it is now. On the moon, these Earth specimens eventually got mixed up and buried with other lunar substances.

Why Scientists Are So Sure About the Terrestrial Origin of the Stone?

This is the first time when scientists have made such an astounding claim regarding any lunar specimen. Moreover, they are quite confident of the veracity of their hypothesis. The main reason for this confidence is the presence of mineral traces in the rock.

Geological Makeup of the Moon is Free of Minerals

Apollo 14 Saturn V rocket blasting off
Apollo 14 Saturn V rocket lifts off for the moon

The geological studies about the lunar crust have shown that it’s underneath environment is not suitable for the formation of minerals like the inner layers of the Earth’s crust. Scientists believe that minerals might be part of the core of the moon and they are really sure that the sample in question is not from that innermost layer of the natural satellite.  

Zircon, Feldspar, and Quartz Are Present in the Rock

Scientists have identified traces of zircon, feldspar, and quartz in the rock. This discovery is the foundation of an hypothesis that this rock has splashed on the moon from the Earth. These minerals are fairly common within the Earth’s crust. However, no other lunar specimen contains any minerals, let alone these three distinctive gem minerals. It will be fitting to have a brief discussion of these three minerals.  

Zircon: As the name suggests, zircon is the silicate compound of the zirconium element. Some fine specimens of this stone are used as diamond simulants. From transparent options to purple and pink, zircon has an entire array of natural colors that depends on the type of impurity it contains. Some zircon specimens also contain radioactive traces. Such specimens undergo the process of metamictization before the gemological faceting and processing.

Feldspar: This tectosilicate mineral makes up more than 41% of the Earth’s crust in the form of many sub-minerals. From typical rock-like structures to gems such as olivine, a whole range of unique mineral specimens are part of feldspar family. Scientists are yet to disclose which type of feldspar traces have been detected on that terrestrial-lunar rock.

Quartz: Quartz is one of the most abundant minerals present in the Earth’s crust. It has many different uses. Some fine quartz crystals are used in the manufacturing of ornamental items. On the other hand, it is also used in many electronic and mechanical devices due to its piezoelectric properties. On Earth, it is found in nearly every mineral environment. But on the moon, there is no sign of this mineral at all.

The Possible Explanation

The Cone crater from where the Apollo 14 team picked that stone was created some 26 million years ago. Craters are formed when small celestial bodies collide with planetary bodies in high velocities. So, the impact that created the Cone crater actually resulted in the excavation of rocks buried under the lunar surface. The Apollo 14 team just picked one of those excavated rocks among which one had terrestrial mineral traces.

Pre-Lunar Journey of the Stone

Scientists believe that the rock with all its mineral traces was created approximately 20 kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface. According to their studies, the Earth’s crust was the budding ground of mineral formation four billion years ago.

This discovery has also given traction to another conjecture that the entire Earth’s crust had a similar composition with traces of different minerals before the manifestation of biological life on the planet. However, this theory doesn’t have much logical backing in its favor to be taken as a serious scientific assertion.

January’s Birthstone: Garnet

”Round garnet isolated on white backgroundPhoto by Rozaliyayayimages.com

Garnet is the birthstone of people who celebrate their birthdays in the cold, wet, and windy month of January. This gender-neutral gemstone looks just like a ruby; however, garnet doesn’t come with a hefty price tag, making it an affordable alternative to the expensive rubies gemstones.

What is Garnet?

Garnet is a name given to a group of silicate minerals, usually found in form of deep red crystals.

The word garnet is derived from a Latin word Granatus, from Granum, meaning grain or seed. The reason behind the name is that garnet stones resemble pomegranate seeds – they have the same size, shape, and color.

Garnet stones were very popular among Egyptian pharaohs and the Romans – they wore garnet rings and also traded it.

The Anglo-Saxons were also known for using garnet stones in jewelry. According to legends, the king of Saxony had a huge garnet that weighed more than 465 carats.

It is also said that Plato asked a Roman engraver to carve his portrait on a garnet stone.

Where it is found?

While garnets are found all over the world, the following countries are some of the more well-known producers and supplier of the stones:

  • United States – it is the state gemstone of New York
  • Turkey
  • Australia
  • Russia
  • China
  • India

Varieties of Garnet

While all types of garnet share similar physical properties and are usually found in crystal form, they have different chemical compositions.

Garnet stones can be categorized into different types on the basis of metal ions in their structure – they may have aluminum, calcium, iron, chromium, or magnesium.

Here are a few varieties of garnet:

  • Almandine

Most commonly found variety of garnet, Almandine stones are found in deep red, reddish-brown, and black color. These transparent stones are widely used as gemstones. Almandine garnets are also the hardest of all types of garnets, measuring 7.5 to 8 on Mohs’ scale of mineral hardness.  

  • Grossular

Grossulars are unique because they are colorless when pure, but can obtain a wide range of colors due to impurities. A gossular garnet can be purple, gray, yellow, white, brown, red, orange, pink, and green. No other type of garnet has such a wide color range.

  • Pyrope   

The red colored pyrope is the most popular type of garnet gemstone and is widely used in different jewelry items.

  • Spessartite

With a very high refractive index, this type of garnet has a special brilliance, making it unique from other types.

While they are commonly found in orange or orange-red color, Spessartite garnets may also occur in pink, yellow, red, or brown. The variance in color is due to the type and amount of iron impurities in the stone.

  • Rhodolite

The composition of Rhodolite garnet falls between almandine and pyrope due to which it is considered an intermediate of the two varieties. The color of Rhodolite garnet leans more towards purple than red because it has more magnesium than iron.

  • Tsavorite

The trade name for the emerald green garnets, Tsavorite stones not only have the color, but they also look like emeralds. However, they are very rare. Tsavorites are believed to get their color due to vanadium or chromium impurities. These stones do not have any inclusions and are usually flawless.

  • Urarovite

One of the rarest types, Urarovite garnet occurs in dark chrome green little crystals. Due to its rarity and small size, it is not commonly used in jewelry.

There are also many different varieties of synthetic garnets.

Uses of Garnet

Some of the most common uses of garnet stones are as follows:

  • Gemstones

Red colored garnets were among the most commonly used gemstones in ancient Rome, during the Late Antiquity. They can also be seen in the artwork of the Migration Period – from 300 to 700 CE – in Europe.

  • Industrial Uses

Garnets that are extracted from hard rock are mixed with high pressure water to cut steel and many other materials in water jets.

The stone is used as:

  • Abrasive-blasting  mineral
  • Abrasive powder
  • Sanding paper, belt, strip, and disc

Garnet sand is used for water filtration and garnet paper is widely used to finish bare wood, by cabinet makers.

Health, Mental and Spiritual Benefits Garnet Is Believed To Offer

In many cultures, Garnet is believed to have the power to heal and revitalize your body by removing toxins and negative energies. People believe that garnet stones can cleanse your mind, body, and spirit and helps you to achieve, maintain, or regain the balance in your life. It can also help regain emotional stability and thus, is believed to help people going through difficult times.

It also helps a person to harness inner strength and creativity, promotes self-empowerment, as well as clear and higher thinking. By strengthening your creative abilities and enabling you to use them, garnet is believed to bring inspiration and passion to your life.

Garnet is also considered a powerful talisman.  It is believed to have protective powers – it offers protection during travel and can also help get rid of night terrors and nightmares. It is supposed to help convert negative energies into positive ones.

Garnet stones are also believed to offer many health benefits, such as:

  • Detoxification of blood
  • Improving metabolism
  • It helps to regulate blood pressure and internal rhythms. This makes it effective for people suffering from cardiovascular issues
  • Relieving pain that’s associated with rheumatism and arthritis
  • It can help in purification and regeneration of your body.

By helping you get rid of negative energies and achieve emotional stability, garnet stones are believed to help in decision-making. They strengthen willpower and confidence and are thus considered great for businessmen.

By harnessing positive energies, garnet brings wealth and prosperity, but keeps you grounded and grateful.

During ancient and medieval times, garnets were also considered to help treating inflammatory diseases as well as to soothe anger.

The red colored garnet is considered a symbol of love and romance and is thought to make a relationship last long.

Copper: The Most Relevant Metal in History

Apart from being a leading industrial raw material, copper is also a nutritional mineral. Our body needs it in trace amounts for healthy functioning. In this article, we will discuss copper’s significance in all aspects. But first, let’s have a look at its geological formation process.

Formation of Copper

Humans have been using copper since time immemorial. After thousands of years, copper is still one of the most relevant metallic minerals. Its various physical and chemical properties expand its scope as an industrial material. In the US alone, copper is the most used metallic mineral after iron and aluminum.

Copper like other metallic minerals is found in the ores of sedimentary rocks. According to geological studies, copper from the earth’s magma is trapped in the compressed layers of mud and sand that later forms sedimentary rocks. The presence of volcanoes gives a good start to mineralogist for copper prospecting since it indicates the abundance of sedimentary layers close to the earth’s surface.

How Much Copper is Present in the Earth’s Crust?

With modern prospecting techniques and studies, geologists have estimated that around 5 trillion pounds of copper is present in the sedimentary layers of the earth’s crust and only 12% of it has been mined until now. So, it is safe to say that we still have plenty of this useful mineral at our disposal.

Historical Account of Copper Use

Mineralogists and historians are in agreement that copper is the most ancient known metal in human history. It is believed that Neolithic people started using copper as a replacement for stones around 9000 B.C. The carbon dating of a copper pendant excavated in Northern Iraq has substantiated this assertion because the pendant in question originates from 8700 B.C!

Egyptians: The Pioneers of Mass-Scale Copper Use

It’s a widely known fact that the ancient Egyptian civilization was way ahead of its time. Historians believe that Egyptians formally started the metallurgical use of copper around 4,000 B.C.  They were the first to make copper alloys by mixing it with other metals.

From water vessels to razors and chisels, Egyptians molded copper in several everyday tools. It is believed that copper chisels were used to facet and smooth limestone blocks used in the construction of the pyramids.

Greeks Brought Copper to Battlefields

After Egyptians, the Greeks also mainstreamed the use of copper. They were the first ones to use this mineral in the manufacturing of weapons and armors. Greeks also introduced copper kitchenware. They started using copper pots for cooking and storing water. They believed that copper had antiseptic qualities. Later on, scientific studies proved that copper surfaces prevent the growth of pathogens.  

Copper: The Latin Etymology

Like other thriving civilizations, the Romans also adopted the use of copper. They used to mine it in Cyprus and therefore called it ‘aes Cyprium’ which means ‘metal of Cyprus’ in Latin. The term was later abridged to Cyprium. It was further morphed into ‘Coprum’, which eventually became ‘Copper’ in English.

In the old days, copper coins were used as an international currency. Traders all over the world would do business through the coins made out of copper and its alloys. Even today, the dime, quarter, and half dollar coins contain more than 90% copper.

Interesting Connection between Denim Jeans and Copper

In 1873, a customer complained to a Nevada tailor that his pants pockets kept on tearing.  The tailor came up with the solution to embed copper rivets as a way of reinforcing the pockets and other stress points on the pants. The solution became so popular that it went on to become a standard for the majority of Jeans brands all over the world.

Nutritional and Medical Importance of Copper

Modern medical studies have highlighted the importance of copper as a trace nutrient. According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the US National Academy of Science, around 0.9 mg of copper must be part of the daily dietary consumption of adult males and females. Studies have proven many roles of copper within the body.

  • It plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells
  • The normal growth and development of connective tissues and bones is dependent on copper traces
  • Copper acts as a catalyst in the formation of vital proteins

Apart from these major growth activities, copper along with other micronutrients plays an integral role in many other physiological reactions as well.

Antimicrobial Attributes of Copper

As mentioned earlier, copper is inherently resistant to pathogen growth. Therefore, the CDC has recommended the use of copper surfaces in hospitals to prevent the spread of infections. It is important to mention here that nearly 2 million US citizens are infected every year from pathogens lingering in hospitals.

Industrial Use of Copper

We all are well aware of the extensive use of Copper in the industrial sector. From large electrical infrastructures to small electronic items, copper is used everywhere. There are various functional reasons why copper is a major industrial item.

  • Copper shows great ductility and malleability characteristics. This means it’s possible to mold it into different shapes and structures without fracturing it. For that matter, the manufacturing of copper items is not complex and expensive.
  • The good conductance value of copper makes it a perfect choice for electrical uses. All around the world, the majority of electricity distribution networks for consumers consist of copper transmission wires.
  • Copper is an economical option. As discussed earlier, it’s abundantly present within the earth’s crust. Moreover, its recycling value also makes it beneficial for industries. Nearly 45% of copper consumption of the US is now fulfilled with recycled copper.

Before we conclude this article, it is worth mentioning that copper also had an architectural significance once. Egyptians used it to clad doors and windows. A 300 BC temple in Sri Lanka has a roof laden with copper shingles. Copper also became popular in European architectural designs during medieval times. Although not a major component of architectural designs anymore, it doesn’t change the fact that it has always been a relevant mineral and will continue to be.

Healing Through Gemstones

We have all heard of magic crystal balls and gemstones used to create miracles in movies and lore. Many people believe that these minerals provide natural healing abilities. Everything on this planet is comprised of energy on a molecular level, be it living or non-living. From animals and plants to rocks and gemstones, there is always some form of activity taking place on a subatomic level. It is thought that gemstones and crystals have energy in them which can be channeled to provide healing and restore balance in people.

Is Healing Through Precious Stones a New Fad?

If you think that healing through gemstones and crystals is something bogus, cooked up by hippies or wishful thinking by alternate healing therapists, then you might want to take another look. Contrary to popular belief, gemstones have been used for healing since ancient times, which kind of tells us that something must be going on. The earliest people to use them were the Aztecs, Egyptians and the Chinese.

Now it’s making a huge comeback thanks to the new-age spiritualist movement and people trying to seek cures and therapies through other modalities rather than heavily relying on the pharmaceutical industry. This in no way means that you should stop going to a doctor or taking your medications but simply to explore other areas to find a cure along with them. The best part of this that there aren’t any side effects.

If Gemstone Healing Is Legit, Why Don’t Doctors Support It?

This is simply because they follow a different school of thought. They don’t believe that diseases come from bad energy or an imbalance in the chakras. That is why crystal or stone healing is considered a pseudo-science and we should add that there have been no scientific facts to the healing powers of these gemstones, but for those who want to believe, there is no reason not to give it a try.

Remember that even as little as a decade ago, doctors thought that yolks increased bad cholesterol in people. However, recent studies have shown otherwise and they encourage it. If you have nothing to lose, then it’s worth a try. Gemstones are not just beautiful and colored rocks that you can use in ornaments and jewelry, as you may want to try to harness their powers and channel them for healing to take place.

How Do Gemstones and Crystals Heal?

One theory is that these are the Earth’s natural energy transmitters, amplifiers, and connectors. They have been evolving slowly and steadily under the earth or embedded in other rocks for so many centuries. That is why they are potent for the healing process. Have you ever wondered why everyone has a birthstone? It is because they are connected through the Earth’s planetary alignment and that is why they work best according to a person’s birth month.

Here are some of the most effective gemstones or crystals for you to use for healing energy:

Amethyst

It is one of the most popular stones in the gemstone world. Look through any top ten gemstones list and you will find amethyst in there. It is a gorgeous violet colored stone that balances and restores the energy. It is best for people working in stressful jobs and environments or going through a rough phase in life.

Turquoise

This beautiful sea green colored stone is really helpful for people going through anxiety, stress or depression. It also helps those with a weak immune system, social anxiety and insomnia. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that help to ease any joint pain as well. Another key property of this precious stone is that helps the body to absorb nutrients from food efficiently.

Crystal Quartz

Crystal quartz is also a heavy contender in the world of crystal healing as it affects people on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It activates the healing chakras in the body and is best used for meditative healing.

Citrine

This is a beautiful yellowish gemstone that looks just like translucent gold. It is best used for attracting prosperity and health. Some people wear it while others keep it in their wallet to attract financial abundance removing any blockages in the way of success.

Rose Quartz

A soft baby pink colored gemstone to heal you in the areas of love is just what you need. This not only restores your energy but helps you attract love, mend broken relationships, and any emotional turmoil. It helps you love yourself and others easily and is also sued for treating heart ailments.

Jade

Touted by ancient Chinese for removing toxins in the body, jade will always be the stone for clearing out negative auras and energy. It’ll allow you to become a healthier and happier person in no time. It also boosts creativity and improves your inner calm.

Blue Topaz

If laughter is the best medicine, then blue topaz is the one that brings your laughter out and helps you to heal. It is known to boost happiness and provides high energy levels to people. You attract more joyous experiences and find happiness in everything. Blue topaz induces endorphins and makes a person more relaxed which is just what you need to get through a stressful day. Wearing blue topaz can make one more receptive to positive things. It promotes mental clarity and increases energy and focus in people.

Ruby

Ruby needs no introduction as it is popular in every culture. You might not have ruby shoes to get you out of Oz but it will surely get you out of any funk that is obstructing you from progressing further in life. It is a fiery colored precious gemstone that helps in increasing energy levels, libido and motivation to do anything in life. It boosts high self-esteem and is also used for attracting your soul mate. Rubies are also used for healing broken hearts and reducing emotional instability.

Why not explore the world of nature’s treasures and see if you can benefit from these mystycial gems?

What You Need to Know About Natron

”Close up of soda ash Photo by zkrugeryayimages.com

Naturally occurring in a number of different colors from pure white, yellow, or even grey, Natron is a mineral that is popular for a variety of reasons. Used extensively by the Egyptians for the mummification process, Natron is commonly found in a number of African countries including Egypt, Chad, and Tanzania which is home to a soda lake, Lake Natron, which gets its name from the mineral.

A mixture of sodium bicarbonate and sodium carbonate decahydrate, Natron is generally powdery or vitreous, and extremely brittle. One of the major reasons why Natron is so popular is because of its commercial use in the production of soda ash, a water-soluble sodium salt with a variety of benefits and usages.

Interested in learning more about this incredible mineral? Read on to find out everything you need to know about Natron, its chemical composition, and the various reasons why it has been such a popular mineral throughout history.

Appearance

As mentioned above, Natron is naturally found in a number of colors from white to grey and even yellow. What’s important to note, however, is that Natron is white in its purest form, whereas the grey and yellow colors come from impurities. In ancient Egypt, the Natron mineral was also used to produce a unique color known as Egyptian blue.

While the mineral generally has a vitreous or powdery appearance, it’s interesting for many that it often appears to be completely colorless when seen against transmitted light. There are, however, a number of different factors that come into play which are responsible for making Natron appear as transparent or translucent.

Physical Properties

inner crater of Mount Emi KoussiLike a number of other minerals, Natron is a brittle mineral which follows the monoclinic crystal system. Extremely soluble in water, Natron is quick to dehydrate when in contact with air and forms thermonatrite. Additionally, Natron is known for conchoidal fractures and produces tiny fragments.

A crystal matrix characterized by transpiro-evaporation and matrices of crust-like aggregates are also features that make Natron an interesting mineral that is unique in multiple ways.

Here are some other properties that can help you understand Natron and what the mineral is really all about:

Gemological Properties of Natron

Chemical formula of Natron: Na2CO3 • 10H2O
Color: Pure white, yellow, grey
Crystal system:  monoclinic
Hardness on Mohs scale: 1 – talc
Luster: Vitreous
Cleavage: Distinct
Luminescence: Phosphorescent
Fracture: Conchoidal

Origins

As mentioned earlier on, Natron was extremely popular in Ancient Egypt owing to its use in the mummification process. However, while Natron has been commonly found in that region for centuries, there are a number of other places where Natron naturally exists.

In addition to Lake Natron which gets its name owing to the abundance of the mineral, Natron is also naturally found in Austria, Italy, Russia, Australia, Canada, the United States, and Hungary.

Chemistry of Constituent Compounds

The Natron mineral comprises two primary constituent compounds, namely sodium bicarbonate and sodium carbonate decahydrate. Sodium carbonate decahydrate follows the monoclinic crystal system which is responsible for it to form crusts. In fact, the monoclinic crystal system is also held responsible for the efflorescence formation of sodium carbonate decahydrate.

Sodium carbonate decahydrate is also known for losing water when in contact with air – a characteristic that it shares with Natron. The specific gravity of the compound is measured to be between 1.42 and 1.47, and it is known to lose crystal water during decrystallization and recrystallization in the form of a salt solution that is generally clear and colorless.

Ways in Which Natron Can Be Used

The production of soda ash is one of the most popular reasons for which Natron is still commercially used. Offering a variety of benefits, soda ash is generally produced either by Natron, or by calicination of sodium carbonate monohydrate, sodium bicarbonate, or Trona, a mineral with similar properties to Natron.

While the production of soda ash is one of the more recent usages of Natron, the mineral is known to have added immense value in a multitude of other ways in the past. Not only was the mineral used extensively for the production of a unique and distinct color that goes by the name “Egyptian blue,” but the mineral was also an extremely popular part of the ceramic manufacturing process. Used alongside sand and lime, Natron would help the Romans and others produce glass and ceramics on a large scale. Owing to its incredibly diverse properties, the mineral was also used as an effective method for soldering various precious metals together in the past.  

Even though the industrial usages of the mineral are interesting enough, what surprises quite a number of people is the fact that Natron was also used extensively in health and hygiene. The mineral was not only used for the production of soaps and as a mouthwash, but it was also used in antiseptics and even as a bleaching agent!

Thanks to its dehydrating properties, Natron was also used extensively in the mummification process in ancient Egypt to ensure that all moisture was removed from the body for effective mummification. Additionally, since Natron can increase alkalinity, a hostile environment for bacteria was created by treating bodies of kings and royals with the mineral to ensure that the body does not rot. What’s more, a mixture of Natron and castor oil was often used by artists to prevent staining.

Even though Natron was popular throughout history for its immense usages and unique chemical and physical properties, the mineral is no longer used as commonly. With that said, the most popular alternative of Natron in industrial processes today is soda ash, which is a derivative of the mineral.

Japan Discovers a Rare-Earth Mineral Deposit Worth of Hundreds of Years of Supply

Tantalite Mineral

Rare-earth minerals, as the name suggests, are one of the most valuable natural commodities offered by the earth’s crust.  Apart from being rare, these minerals have immense economic importance. For example, they are used in the manufacturing of the majority of electronic equipment that we use today.

Rare-earth minerals may contain any of the 13 metallic elements that are located on the second to last row of the periodic table. According to experts, they are abundantly present in the earth’s crust but in a dispersed form. This means it’s really hard to find deposits where these rare metallic elements are clumped together in an amount that can be mined for industrial purposes.

According to a research report published in the Journal of Nature, Japan might have discovered the world’s largest single deposit of rare-earth minerals on the coast of Minamitori Island over 1,100 miles southeast of Tokyo. It’s important to mention here that the discovery is still in its prospecting phase. However, what has been found until now is quite astonishing. It is safe to say that this discovery will have substantial implications for the high-end and complex manufacturing industries. First, let’s have a look at what geological and mineralogical experts have hinted about the deposit.

After the scientific prospecting of the site, researchers indicated that the deposit contains over 16 million tons of these rare-earth gems. Yes, you read that right. In the researchers’ own words, the amount of different rare-earth minerals present at the site can fulfill the global needs for a semi-infinite time period.

For example, it has been found out that there is enough yttrium and dysprosium on the site to fulfill the global needs of these metals for more than 700 years. Moreover, these europium deposits can last for more than 600 years. Terbium can be supplied for around 400 years from Minamitori Island mines.

Formation of Rare-Earth Minerals  

Rare-earth minerals exist in the deepest layers of the earth’s crust. They move closer to the surface through tectonic and volcanic activity. It is believed that rare-earth minerals are the debris of a supernova explosion occurring millions of years ago, which then got integrated into the earth’s core upon its formation. Scientists believe that it is only natural to find such a large deposit of rare-earth minerals in Japan since the region experiences more volcanic activities and tectonic shifting than anywhere else in the world.

Economic Implications of the Discovery  

China has a monopoly over the exports of rare-earth minerals and Japan is one of the largest consumers of this community, due to its expansive electronic manufacturing landscape. It has to rely on Chinese rare-earth imports to fulfill its industrial needs, but they have been guilty of abusing their authority over exports to Japan several times in the past.

For instance, it abruptly slashed the rare-mineral export quota to Japan and increased the price by 10 percent. In 2014, China withheld rare-earth mineral shipments to Japan over the issue of a disputed island between the two countries. The 2014 fiasco actually pushed Japan to start searching and prospecting rare-earth minerals on its own territory.

With the newly found deposits, Japan won’t have to bear with these shenanigans anymore. As mentioned earlier, the deposits are so enormous that they can fulfill the demand for several rare-earth minerals for centuries.  

The discovery of the minerals in Japan has great economic prospects for the US as well. The United States is already in a trade war with China, where both countries are trying to damage the exports of the other. Successful mining of rare-earth minerals from Minamitori Island means the US can also drop one more Chinese import from the list in the future.  

Challenge: Finding an Economic Excavation Method

The research further indicates that the difficult and expensive excavation is the major reason why Japan hasn’t already started mining in this area. According to the report writers, Japanese mineral experts are trying to work out an excavation technique that can turn the deposit mining into an economically viable project.

Uses of Rare-Earth Minerals Found in Japanese Site

To understand the significance of this discovery, let’s have a look at many the different uses that rare-earth minerals discovered on Minamitori Island can provide.

Yttrium

Yttrium is used as reinforcement in the making of magnesium and aluminum alloys. It is also used in the manufacturing of white LED lights. Yttrium is also in solid-state lasers, which are used to cut through metals. The radioactive isotopes of yttrium are used in some cancer treatments.  

Dysprosium

The most significant use of dysprosium is seen in the manufacturing of control rods of nuclear reactors. It is used because of its remarkably good capability of absorbing neutrons. Moreover, its magnets are also used in motors and generators because of their exceptionally good resistance against temperature-derived demagnetization. Dysprosium is also used in the manufacturing of halide lamps since it produces intense white light.

Europium

Europium glows red under UV light. It is used in the printing of Euros to deter forgeries. A fake Euro banknote doesn’t give a reddish glow under UV lamps because of the absence of Europium from it.  Europium is also used in really small amounts in the manufacturing of low-energy light bulbs. Moreover, some super-conducting alloys also contain the traces of europium.

Terbium

Terbium is used in the manufacturing of low-energy light bulbs. It is used in medical X-rays for quality improvement of images within short exposure time. Terbium basically makes the use of X-ray equipment safer. Its amorphous form is also used in the manufacturing of laser devices.

As the research into the excavation of these minerals without exhausting resource is still underway, it will easily take a couple of years before the industrial sector can benefit from this deposit. The Japanese track record regarding such developments is commendable. So, we should have a positive outlook regarding the optimal utilization of these rare-earth mineral deposits in the near future.  

North America’s Largest Yellow Diamond Discovered in Canada

Close-up of single yellow crystal diamond isolated on a white background Photo by borodayayimages.com

Diamond prospecting is no easy feat. Miners only succeed in accessing the deposit of this dazzling gemstone after a lot of failed endeavors. After that, finding these large minerals is an achievement in itself. And finding a diamond that is large with fancy colors, happens very rarely. But this rare event has recently taken place in Canada where a diamond mining company has unearthed a whopping 552-carat yellow diamond.

It is the largest diamond that has ever been found in the North American region and beats the earlier record (187.7-carat) by a mile. Dominion Diamond is the company that mined this gem (before cutting and polishing) from its mine in Calgary, Canada. The discovered specimen that has yet to be named, holds a diameter of 1.5 inches and a height of a bit over two inches.

From a geological standpoint, it is being said that diamonds of that size, color and texture are not usually found in this region. As per the press release issued by Dominion Diamond, the mining of this rare rock in its original form was made possible by quite an arduous process. The company has termed the excavation of diamonds without any fragmentation a remarkable feat.  One can easily make out the abrasion marks on the surface of the excavated specimen in the picture released by Dominion Diamonds. It definitely shows the amount of effort that went into mining it in its natural form.

Bright Yellow Diamonds are Prized Gemstones

Different colored diamonds have varied demand in the gemstone world. If we particularly talk about yellow diamonds, then one can see an interesting trend among the gem lovers. For instance, diamonds with a pale yellow hue are cheaper than the colorless ones. However, the tables are turned as pale yellow transcends into more brighter and intense shades. Diamonds with dark yellow shades are pricier than colorless specimens.

This color phenomenon is primarily caused by chemical impurities that exist at the molecular level in any specimen. For instance, a blue hue in any diamond specimen is developed because of the presence of boron atoms in its structure. Similarly, the existence of nitrogen molecules between the crystal lattice is responsible for yellow color.

The Rarity of Yellow Diamonds

Colored diamonds, in general, are extremely rare. According to certain estimates, every 10,000 carats of diamonds have only one carat of the naturally colored specimen. However, within the domain of color diamonds, yellow ones are the most common. More than half of the colored diamonds exist in different bands of yellow hue. The prevalence of yellow diamonds among color diamonds doesn’t change the fact that it is still a rare gemstone. To put things in perspective, only one out of 16,000 carats of mined diamonds are yellow in color.

Different Shades of Yellow and Other Color Combinations

As mentioned earlier, not every natural yellow diamond is of the same intensity and color saturation. Moreover, many times a secondary color undertone is also present in yellow diamond specimens. All these factors play a great part in setting the demand and price of the stone. Even though different people scale the intensity of color through different parameters, the standard is set by the Gemological Institute of America differentiates the color by these intensities:

    • Fancy Light Yellow
    • Fancy yellow
      • Intense yellow
    • Deep yellow
    • Vivid yellow

The price of the specimen goes up as we move from fancy light yellow to vivid yellow. The deep and vivid yellow diamond specimens don’t just have a magnificent appearance, but they are extremely rare too. For that matter, a huge price difference exists between the different yellow diamond specimens. For instance, a vivid yellow diamond will be four times more expensive than a fancy light specimen with the same carats and cuts.

Yellow Diamonds and Secondary Colors

Yellow diamonds are often found with secondary undertones. Some of the common multi-color yellow diamonds are:

      • Brown yellow
    • Green yellow
    • Orange yellow

The Brown yellow diamond is a specimen with a predominant yellow hue and a secondary undertone of brown. The same goes for green yellow and orange-yellow specimens. The price of yellow diamonds with secondary shades depends on the rarity and demand of that color. Yellow diamonds with a tinge of green are more expensive than plain yellow specimens. On the other hand, yellow diamonds with brown undertones are not that sought-after.

Famous Yellow Diamonds  

Before this discovery, some other yellow diamonds have also made history. For example, one of the world’s largest yellow diamonds was discovered even before the new wave of gem prospecting and mining.  It was discovered by the British mining company DeBeers in the then newly discovered diamond mines in South Africa. The specimen was later cut into a 234-carat cushion piece and bought by the Maharaja of Patiala, India for his necklace.

tiffany yellow diamond

The Tiffany Yellow Diamond is also one of the largest colored diamonds. It was also discovered in the early diamond mining days in South Africa. The stone was originally 287 carats but later cut into 128-carat piece.

The discovery of yet another rare gemstone suggests that the earth crust still got many spectacular specimens to astonish us with their brilliance. It also implies that ‘the largest gemstone’ can’t be a conclusive title for any mined gem.

Before we wrap up the article, let’s have a look at some of the metaphysical properties attributed to yellow diamonds.

      • It is believed that wearing yellow diamonds brings joy and happiness. The yellow diamond symbolizes the motifs of love and commitment that eventually leads to happiness and contentment.
    • Yellow diamonds are also known for improving inner strength. People can easily deal with difficult and unwanted situations when their inner strength is reinforced by a yellow diamond.
    • Yellow diamonds are also believed to have a cleansing effect on negative thoughts. Negative sentiments such as envy, treachery, and greed can put the affected person on the path of self-destruction. Wearing a yellow diamond can help in mitigating the levels of negative emotions.

Graphite: The Mineral of Extremes

Close focus on sharp pencil and pencil shavings on white paper Photo by jack-sooksanyayimages.com

It’s impossible to hear the word ‘graphite’ and not think of pencils. To most of us, that is the only use we know of this mineral.

What if we tell you that graphite is much more than just pencil lead? What if we tell you that in the near future when electric cars will be dominating the roads, it’s possible that graphite would be the hottest commodity in the market? What if we tell you that diamond and graphite have the exact same composition but totally different properties? In fact, the properties between the two are quite contrary.

The mineral graphite might not be shiny, dazzling, and precious-looking like its close relative, but it does brighten our lives nonetheless.

Let’s learn about graphite, which is otherwise known as the mineral of extremes:

What is Graphite?

This naturally occurring mineral is a form of crystalline carbon. This non-metallic carbon polymorph is found lying deep within metamorphic and igneous rocks.

It is opaque and blackish-silver in color and has a dull metallic sheen. This famous mineral has many nicknames. In addition to being called mineral of extremes in colloquial form, it is also often referred to as black lead or plumbago–because of its resemblance with metal lead.

Graphite showcases strange contradictory properties. At one hand, it is extremely soft and cleaves with the lightest of pressure; it also has low specific gravity. On the other hand, it is extremely resistant to heat, to such an extent that it remains inert under heat pressure–hence its famous nickname, the mineral of extremes.

It is because of these extreme properties that graphite has become one of the widely used minerals in manufacturing and metallurgy.

Geological Formation

Graphite is a metamorphic mineral that occurs when carbon encounters heat and pressure in the upper mantle and in the Earth’s crust. It goes through a transformation deep under the ground as a result of the heat range, which is 750 degrees Celsius, and pressure range of 75,000 pounds per square inch.

Graphite is commonly found in the form of flakes or crystalline layers in metamorphic rocks. Marble, schist’s and gneisses are some of the common rocks that host graphite. This mineral might also be found in organic-rich shales and coal beds. In these cases, graphite may have formed because of organic matter such as dead bacteria or plants. It then goes through a metamorphic transformation to turn into graphite.

Graphite also occurs in meteorites and veins; in rare cases, it also occurs in basalt.  

Since there are so many different locations of this mineral’s formation, it leads to variations in its type of property, even within the same deposit.  In order to determine the quality of the graphite, mineralogists try to understand the geological history of the deposit before mining.

Diamond and Graphite

Both diamond and graphite are composed of the element carbon. The reason why these two minerals are so vastly different is because they are subjected to different conditions. Diamonds undergo extreme pressure and heat in the mantle. Graphite, on the other hand, is found near the earth’s surface, and it transforms at lower temperature and pressure range within the crust.

However, the two minerals have nothing in common when it comes to properties. In fact, they have contrasting properties.

Here’s how the two differ:

    • Graphite is the softest mineral, whereas diamond is the hardest.
    • Graphite is an excellent conductor, while diamond is a good insulator  
    • Diamond is typically transparent, however, graphite is opaque.
    • Graphite makes an excellent lubricant, whereas diamond is often used as an abrasive. 

It is believed that diamonds found near the Earth’s surface are gradually changing to graphite. It’s a long process, but eventually, there will come a time when most diamonds will turn into graphite.

Uses of Graphite

In Electronics

Basic battery charging

As mentioned, graphite is an excellent conductor and as such, it can be used in a variety of ways to power electrical devices.

You can try some experiments with graphite as a conductor here.

As a Lubricant

Graphite makes a perfect dry lubricant because of how slippery it is. If you have ever tried picking up a broken pencil lead, you’d know what we are talking about.

When graphite reacts with water vapor in the atmosphere, it deposits a thin layer over adjoining surfaces and very effectively reduces the friction between them.

It is because of this lubricating property that graphite is very commonly used in the manufacturing of lubricants of machine parts and metal locks. The mineral is also present in grease.

  • As a Refractory Material

As we mentioned before, graphite is extremely resistant to heat. It can withstand high temperature without showing any changes in its chemical formation.

This property makes graphite an excellent choice for refractory material in steel and glass manufacturing industry. It is also used commonly in the iron processing industry.   

For Manufacturing of Graphene Sheets

Graphen sheets

Graphite is used in the manufacturing of graphene sheets. These sheets are noted to be 100 times stronger than steel. They are also 10 times lighter. Some uses of graphene can be found here.

In Sports and Medical Goods

Graphite is used to make graphene sheets, and these sheets are recognized as one of the strongest materials.

Graphene sheets are one of the best choices in the production of various high-quality, super-strength, and lightweight sports equipment. While the uses of graphene sheets in the production of medical equipment are limited at the time, the future possibilities seem endless.

  • In Writing Materials

One of the first uses of graphite was as a writing material. In fact, the word graphite is derived from the Greek word graphein, which means “to write”. In the 16th century, when the mineral was first discovered in Cumbria, in North England, people thought it was coal. However, it did not burn, so the locals discovered its other use, as an excellent marker of sheepskins.

Today, it even helps astronauts take notes in space.

The lead in pencils, however, is not purely graphite. It is a mixture of clay and graphite.

The carbon family is quite intriguing. Where one mineral is all sparkly and dazzling, the other is not. However, the uses of graphite are much more versatile and valuable. From shiny golf clubs to aircraft, graphite has found its place in many industries.

There are experts in this area of geology that say that graphite or more precisely graphein is going to be an up and coming item of need in this growing environment of technology. We just have to wait and see.

The Stone of Royalty, Amethyst Over the Course of History

”Amethyst on a mirros Photo by bremseyayimages.com

Once upon a time, the stone of amethyst enjoyed the same status as the diamonds today. It once used to grace the outfits of the kings and the clergies and was only known to revolve among elites and royalties.

Among all the stones that the human race has come to discover, and would probably continue to discover, Amethyst enjoys some of the richest historical tales.

This is still a stone of the royals; its vivid purple color reflects this. Interestingly, its status as a privileged gemstone wasn’t just recognized by the crowned heads of one nation, but also by many others. This is proven by the fact that this stone is a part of royal collections all over the world.

The Earliest Use of Amethyst by the Greeks

The earliest use of this mineral dates back to the days of ancient Greece.  In fact, the stone got its famous name from the Greek word, amethystos, meaning literally, not drunk.

It was accredited as the stone that protects its owner from the state of drunkenness.

A Greek legend even says that this stone was the creation of the Greek God of Wine, Dionysus.  According to the legend, a mere mortal insulted Dionysus, and in his fit of rage, Dionysus vowed to unleash his revenge on the next person who would cross his path. As it so happens, the first person he saw right after his vow, was a beautiful young maiden who was on her way to pay homage to Artemis, the goddess of childbirth and virginity. True to his promise, Dionysus unleashed furious tigers upon the young maiden. As they leaped to attack her, Artemis stepped in to save the maiden by turning her into a statue of white quartz.

One legend says that Dionysus poured a cup of grape wine out of remorse for his actions that gave amethyst its rich purple color and its anti-drinking effects.

Another legend says that in his intoxicated condition, Dionysus showered his wrath on a young virgin named Amethyst. The maiden cried out to goddess Diana for help. Diana turned the maiden into a white amethyst.

Out of remorse, Dionysus cried and his purple tears fell on the white quartz.

Whatever the myth, the Greeks firmly believed that the amethyst was a stone of sobriety and would prevent a person from drinking excessively.  

Amethyst in the Lives of the Egyptians

Egyptian folklore wasn’t too far off from Greek mythology. The ancient Egyptians used amethyst as a sign for the zodiac of the goat. The goat was symbolic for animosity with vine and vineyard and hence, the antidote for alcohol.  

Amethyst wasn’t as prevalent in the Egyptian culture as it was in the Greek and Roman culture. However, it was acknowledged and valued in ancient Egypt as well. Its use in Egyptian culture dates back to 3000 BC. Egyptians used to wear amethyst to protect themselves from feelings of guilt and fear.

The royal stone was also worn by the ancient Egyptians to ward off the effects of witchcraft. It was found in many of the Egyptian tombs, including the tombs of their long dead ancient kings.

A beaded amethyst bracelet was discovered in the tomb of Djer, the second pharaoh of Egypt’s 1st dynasty. A bracelet inset with a large amethyst scarab was also found in the tomb of Tutankhamen, the boy-king of ancient Egypt.  

The beloved Queen Mereret’s tomb was also found housing amethyst heart scarabs as well as an anklet with beads of gold and amethyst adorning it.

This shows that even the kings and queens of Egypt were enamored with the beauty of the amethyst.

The Royal Stone in Italy

Italy isn’t behind on their love for the amethyst either. In fact, the Iron Crown of Lombardy is one of the oldest surviving crowns that contains amethyst jewels.

A crown that old and precious is certain to come with a fable. Legend has it that the bands of iron in the crown are from the crucifixion nails of Christ. This legendary crown dates back to the middle ages and is made of 22 gemstones. To be more exact, it contains four violet amethysts, seven red garnets, four gems of glass, and seven blue sapphires.  

Italians weren’t the only ones who owned a gem so valuable and prized. The regalia of France, Norway, and Georgia were also rich in amethyst jewels.  

However, there was a kingdom that surpassed every other. When it came to owning profligate amethyst jewels, the British regalia took the crown–literally!  

Amethyst in the British Crown Jewels

One of the things that make Great Britain so great is its royal kingdom and long-running legacy of monarchs. And what really makes monarchs true royalties is the crown on their head. The royal crown contains only the best for its monarch. The magnificent koh-i-noor diamond that sits front and center on the crown of Queen Victoria is proof of that.Royal Crowns

The British crown also owns five famous scepters in its collection. Every British monarch held that one of these royal scepters in their right hand during their coronation. And then there’s the Orb. It is cut out of a large amethyst and is richly encrusted with diamonds.

One of the ex-British Royal, Queen Mary, was also a proud owner of a famous amethyst parure. The set contains brooches, a necklace, earrings, hair combs, and of course, a tiara. The tiara contained huge and oversized amethysts, cut oval, and adorned by diamonds.

The current location of this parure is unknown. It was passed down from Queen to Queen. Even the present Queen Elizabeth was found wearing bits and pieces of the parure many times.

Over the course of history, monarchs have continued to adorn their jewels with amethysts to strengthen their status as the royals. Rumor has it that the famous Russian Queen Catherine the Great favored amethysts, and it was one of her personal favorites.